Friday, December 29, 2006 

Jumblatt calls for Bashar to be killed

Walid Jumblatt, interviewed by my beloved Gisele Khoury (see this), has called for Syria's President Bashar Al-Assad to be killed.

The words of a desperate man, still clinging on to the sinking ship called March 14.

I'm sure we can expect a new incarnation from the political chamelon soon enough.

Even Gisele is mocking him. This is embarrasing. Leave the stage Walid, leave now.

Thursday, December 28, 2006 

The enlightenment of Samir Qassir

Samir Qassir's two heroes were: Jamal Abdul Nasser and Yasir Arafat.

Enough said.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006 

The Old City's Eighth Gate: a $500m development - the largest shopping mall in the Levant

Ok, se we know the Old City of Damacus only has seven gates - the entry points into the historical centre. But now the city is getting the Eighth Gate.

Don't worry, it's just a name. The development is taking place about 15 minutes outside the Old City, in Yarfour. And it will create the largest shopping mall in the Levant.

The 500 million dollar project (26 billion Syrian Lira) also features two office buildings and four residential properties.

It is being built by Emirates-based companies Emaar and IGO, and they say they want to recreate Dubai luxury in the Levant. Some of the houses will be on the waterfront, and the shopping mall will be built in the style of the Damascus Old City. Access to the whole complex is through an Old City style gate.

The Eighth Gate is due to open in Spring 2007.

Monday, December 25, 2006 

Israel agrees to talk to Syria

Syria has been offering peace talks for six years. And now, finally, Israel has agreed.

But there are conditions: Syria must end support for Hizbollah and Hamas. That is a goalpost that Israel can shift when it feels comfortable. The important thing is that Israel is at least looking in the direction of the negotiating table.

Two weeks ago Bashar challenged Olmert to see whether Syria is really bluffing in its offer of peace talks.


Happy Christmas

Bab Touma, Old City, Damascus, Syria.

Friday, December 22, 2006 

Siniora's lies exposed on the blogosphere - he DID visit Egypt on the day he's accused of meeting the Israel Prime Minister in Egypt

The blogosphere at its best.

Excellent piece of investigative work here by As'ad (the Angry Arab) and Hicham:

Fu'ad Sanyurah has denied this news item about meeting with Israeli officials in Egypt. He said that he had meetings in Beirut on that day. But the Hariri rag, Al-Mustaqbal, had reported that Sanyurah (read the last line) had flown to Egypt for a private visit on that same day. (thanks Hicham)

Wednesday, December 20, 2006 

The New Middle East - by Wassim

The plans for a 'New Middle East' have suffered serious setbacks recently, what with the declaration of defeat (The ISG report), the Israeli fiasco in Lebanon and the strengthened position of Iran. Tony Blair is currently in the region talking about an alliance of the 'moderates' (read belly dancing Arab regimes) and much much talk about trying to draw Syria away from Iran and so isolating Iran. Mr Moallem may not have mentioned the Golan, but that doesn't mean it is no longer a prime strategic concern for Syria. If Hezbullah succeed in pushing for a modestly decent government for Lebanon as opposed to Siniora's "belly dancing in training", tea serving, March 14-esque one, then it adds another player into the equation.

Yes I know the economy is dire in Syria, corruption is rampant and life is difficult, but I shudder to think what would happen to us if we sell out to the project Americana. I don't want Syria to end up neither like Iraq nor like Egypt....for that matter, I don't wish those countries to be in their current states either!

(Thanks Wassim)

Monday, December 18, 2006 

America blocking Syria-Israel peace talks

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says America is holding Israel back from talking to Syria.

The cabinet is split down the middle, with the Defence and Foreign Ministers pushing for contact, and Olmert resisting.

Just days ago Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and Foreign Minister Walid Al-Mouallim made a renewed offer to start talks - this time without making the return of the Israeli Occupied Golan Heights a preconidition.

In the summer it was America which stopped an Israel-Lebanon ceasefire being signed for 33 days.

Saturday, December 16, 2006 

Does Robert Fisk really understand Syria?

I mean, he lives in Beirut. For thirty years in fact, as he likes to remind us at regular intervals. And that makes him a seasoned commentator on Syrian and Lebanese affairs.

So how does a man who lives in Beirut - a city dotted with Syrian flags for years - make a mistake like this:

"The Syrian flag, with its governessy and ferocious eagle..."

Is that the Egyptian flag you're thinking of Mr Fisk?


Dozens of Jaja supporters arrested for Gemayel's murder

Dozens of Jaja supporters have been arrested in connection with the killing of March 14th cabinet member Pierre Gemayel.

Jaja and Gemayel were both members of the March 14th/Hariri movement, but it wouldn't be the first time Jaja was accused of killing fellow Christians for political gain.

Immediately after the killing there were suspicions Jaja was behind the assassination.

There are now rumours the French investigators have uncovered evidence implicating Jaja.

Thursday, December 14, 2006 

British government ends investigation into Lebanese minister's corruption

The British government has made a surprise announcement that it is discontinuing its corruption investigation into Saudi-UK bribes.

It involves a contract for british fighter planes.

The UK's Serious Fraud Office was looking into claims that a senior member of the Lebanese government had bribed a British company on behalf of Saudi.

Saudi gave the UK ten days to call of the investigation. They threatened to cancel the contract for billions of dollars, and cut diplomatic relations.

The UK's justice minister Lord Goldsmith says he obtained the views of Prime Minister Tony Blair before coming to a decision

Billions of pounds were at risk, and he said: "No weight has been given to commercial interests or to the national economic interest."

"(The) continuation of the investigation would cause serious damage to UK/Saudi security, intelligence and diplomatic cooperation, which is likely to have seriously negative consequences for the UK public interest in terms of both national security and our highest priority foreign policy objectives in the Middle East."

Wednesday, December 13, 2006 

Hariri militia stokes the fire of war

A Sunni warlord, and veteran of the Lebanese Civil War says he's preparing to fight the country's Shias.

Abu Ahmed is a militant extremist and supporter of Saad Al Hariri. It could be a message from the Hariri militia that they will not surrender power without a fight, being the supporters of democracy that they are.

"I cleaned (my weapons) with diesel. I have about 500 rounds," he said. "The streets here are boiling." In his car, he keeps photos of Hariri's assassinated father, Rafiq.

Last week a Shia supporter of the Hizbollah-led opposition protests was shot dead in a Sunni area of Beirut.

Hizbollah told its supporters not to retaliate. The group has repeatedly said it will not take up arms against other Lebanese.

The Hizbollah-led opposition blamed the shooting on militias it said were controlled by the authorities. Hariri and the government have repeatedly denied arming any militia.

But Abu Ahmed said many people in his district were carrying guns or seeking to arm themselves.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006 

Gisele Khoury: the peasants have invaded Beirut

Gisele Khoury, right-wing propogandist and chat show host on Al-Arabiyah, has criticised the demonstrators in Beirut.

She says it's an invasion of the peasants (Southerners) - and a triumph of backwardness over moderity. (March 14th/Hariri apparently represents modernity).

In a wide-ranging attack, she mocked Hizbollah's liberation of the south of Lebanon in 2000 - saying that Hizbollah brought the war to Beirut this summer. Words that wouldn't sound out of place in Tel Aviv.

And - most astonishingly - she disputed that the Shia in Lebanon are the country's largest group. There are more Sunnis than Shia, she said, quoting a survey published in An-Nahar. Maybe she should have read the survey first - it showed that there are more Sunni Lebanese WORLDWIDE. In Lebanon, though, few would dispute that the Shia are the biggest group. Few, apart from the Phonecians that is.

The tirade came after a screening of the Al-Hurra TV documentary 'Samir Qasir: What Are You Writing?' by filmmaker Ephrem Kossaify, a sycophantic tribute to Khoury's journalist husband Samir Qasir. A member of the audience - who introduced himself as an investigative journalist - asked Kossaify how he came to the conclusion that Syria was behind Qasir's murder. His response - well, everyone knows Syria did it.

That passes for journalism in Lebanon (or at least on Al-Hurra).

Monday, December 11, 2006 

More than a million shout "Siniora out!"

The Lebanese Army says today's protest in Beirut was "unprecedented", meaning more than one million marched on the streets for the first time in the country's history.

That also makes it one of the world's largest ever protests (in proportion to a country's population).

The army sent 20,000 troops into the capital. The opposition is promising civil disobediance, with warlord Michel Aoun threatening to occupy the Parliament, and set up a rival government. Doesn't this sound familiar.

Lebanese PM Fouad Siniora is surely making plans to flee the country now. The only question is: when?

Sunday, December 10, 2006 

What Motivates Syria? - Washington Post

The Washington Post has given space to Syria's Ambassador to the US. He writes an interesting piece on Syrian-US relations - mainly around the Iraq issue - it's the kind of view that's not often seen in the US press.

What Motivates Syria?
By Imad Moustapha, Washington Post
Sunday, December 10, 2006; Page B07

U.S. engagement -- or rather reengagement -- with Syria has become a salient topic in almost every political debate on U.S. policy in the Middle East, particularly regarding Iraq.

But while commentators argue over whether the United States should engage Syria and whether Syria has the will to cooperate or even the capability to deliver intended outcomes, it appears that the Bush administration remains incapable of searching for a comprehensive approach to the strife in Iraq.

According to top officials in the Bush administration, engagement with Syria would yield no benefits. What is Syria's reaction to this viewpoint? Well, we believe that if U.S. officials continue to regard a dialogue with Syria as a matter of "dictating" -- that is, telling Syria what it ought and ought not to do -- then their predictions are correct.

Given such a "dialogue," Syria would have to agree with the Bush administration officials who say that nothing can be achieved by such engagement. It would be a waste of valuable time for both sides, and in the meantime the situation in Iraq would continue to spiral downward from disastrous to catastrophic.

But if the Bush administration comes to realize that truly engaging consists of an honest dialogue in which all parties are involved, then positive results will be possible -- for Iraq, the United States, Syria and the entire region.

Contrary to what many in Washington believe, past Syrian-American collaboration has yielded many beneficial outcomes, a fact that several former U.S. officials could confirm. These include, among other things, Syrian cooperation on the Middle East peace process, on al-Qaeda and, yes, on Iraq.

What motivates Syria to engage on Iraq? Let us be clear: Syria is not looking for a "deal" with the U.S. administration on any issue. The situation in Iraq is a matter of paramount concern to Syria, particularly the unprecedented levels of death and destruction and the possibility of Iraq's disintegrating, which would have terrible repercussions for the entire Middle East.

Thus Syria has the will and the capacity to assist in Iraq. This help is imperative to Syrian national interests. Syria can cooperate on security issues with the Iraqis and can give considerable support to their political process. The visit of our foreign minister to Baghdad, and the resumption of diplomatic ties between Damascus and Baghdad after a 25-year lapse, clearly illustrates our commitment to a free, peaceful and unified Iraq.

But Syria recognizes that no magical solution exists to instantaneously achieve the desired objectives. A rigorous and comprehensive approach is required. This approach should include a reconsideration of U.S. policy in Iraq, starting with the recognition of the necessity to include all parties involved: neighboring countries and all factions of the Iraqi political and social spectrum.

No party should feel defeated or excluded. All stakeholders in the future of Iraq should feel that it is in their own interest to help stabilize the situation.

A solution should also include U.S. acknowledgment that the majority of Iraqis regard the occupation as only exacerbating the situation and causing further violence and instability. A U.S. plan for withdrawal should be on the table. Only such a step will prove to the various parties involved that the United States genuinely plans to return Iraq to the Iraqis.

Syria believes that engagement of all parties will ultimately become inevitable and the only route forward. Until this happens, all parties will continue to lose. Above all, if it does not happen, Iraq will continue to pay the terrible price for such lack of vision.

Friday, December 08, 2006 

Hizbollah leader: Siniora collaborated with Israel

Sayyid Hasan Nasrallah, the leader of Hizbollah, says Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora collaborated with Israel and the US during Israel's war on Lebanon this summer.

Siniora is accused of prolonging the war in order to destroy Hizbollah.

Siniora's Interior Minister Ahmed Fatfat is accused of ordering a chief of the Lebanese army to invite the invading Israeli army commanders into his office - they were served with tea. It's not clear if they were given biscuits as well.

Nasrallah also revelaled three fundamentalist Sunnis tried to assassinate him*. They have been arrested, but Nasrallah appealed for clemency - he wants them to be freed as a gesture of goodwill. It comes amid fears that some Hizbollah supporters might attack Sunnis after a Sunni shot dead a Shia Hizbollah supporter in Beirut.

In another move to try to calm tension between Sunnis and Shia, the Friday prayers in the protest camp will be lead by a Sunni. Most of the protesters are Shia.

*Siniora and Hariri's March 14th movement is supported by many of Lebanon's fundamentalist Sunni groups. And March 14 is understood to actively court their vote.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006 

Lebanese Army chief: the country is on the verge of violence

The head of the Lebanese Army says politicians have got to find a solution to the standoff in Beirut.

Thousands of protestors have been camping outside Parliament demanding the Prime Minister resign. He is trapped inside the building with a few ministers. Now, protestors have started using a new technique: shining very powerful floodlights into the windows. Not only are they trapped, but they can't even open the curtains.

On Sunday, one protestor was killed by pro-government thugs in a Sunni area. 22 others were injured. Michel Suleiman, army chief, says something needs to be done.

"The absence of political solutions, along with the recurring security incidents, particularly those with sectarian tinge, drains the army's resources and weakens its neutrality, this weakness will make the army unable to control the situation in all areas of Lebanon," said Michel Suleiman.

The message: if Siniora insists on staying in his cosy Parliament building, and refuses to re-open talks, there may be a civil war.


US encourages Iraq to talk to Syria

The US has backed Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki's plans to talk to Syria.

Today, the US Iraq Study Group report is expected to recommend that President Bush himself talks to Syria.

Yesterday, the new Secretary of Defence ruled out military action against Syria.

And the day before, one of the world's most anti-Syrian diplomats, US Ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, quit. He consistently argued against talking to Syria.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006 

SNAP: America says no to war with Syria

President George W Bush's choice to be the next Defence Secretary has ruled out military action against Syria.

Robert Gates says an attack on Syria would have dramatic consequences for the whole region.

Gates is due to replace chief war hawk Donald Rumsfeld.

Monday, December 04, 2006 

Demonstrator killed in Beirut

A Shia demonstrator has been shot dead in a Sunni area of Beirut.

He was travelling home from the protest camp when the attack happened. 20 other people have been injured.


Revealed: Britain investigates international corruption and arms dealing at the heart of the Lebanese government

Britain's Serious Fraud Office has named Mohammed Safadi, a Hariri minister in Siniora's dead-man-walking government, as being involved in a major international corruption scandal.

The billionaire is thought to be the middle man between a British arms company and the Saudi government. The Serious Fraud Office is trying to get access to his Swiss bank accounts to prove involvement.

Friday, December 01, 2006 

SNAP SNAP: Lebanese police say 800,000 people are demonstrating

The Lebanese Opposition has managed to get 800,000 people into central Beirut to call for Prime Minister Fouad Siniora to resign. That's according to police.

Police say up to one-million are on their way.

Last week's pro-government rally on the day of Pierre Gemayel's funeral managed to get around 100,000.

A camp is going to be set up tonight, and people will sleep there until the PM quits.

About me

  • Written by sasa
  • From Damascus, Syria
  • From Damascus to London via Beirut. Based in and out of the central Damascene hamlet of Saroujah. News and feelings from the streets every day. I'm talking rubbish? Leave a comment. Welcome to the information democracy. See below for info about this site.
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